Bear Clan volunteers find hundreds of needles, mountains of garbage on inner-city Winnipeg patrols

A West Broadway resident says neighbourhoods in Winnipeg’s inner city have become a dumping ground for garbage and discarded needles, and that she’s never seen the problem get so bad before. 

Angela Klassen, who is one of the leaders of the West Broadway chapter of the city’s Bear Clan Patrol, says volunteers picked up close to 300 needles in just a few hours on Sunday, and that four patrol teams picked up a combined 5,000 needles in three areas of the city in the past week.

In addition to that, volunteers have been wading through garbage that is piled knee-high in some alleyways in the city’s core area, she said. 

She said the area north of Portage Avenue, around the back lanes of Young and Langside Streets, has gotten particularly bad. 

“I’m just shocked at the amount of garbage that is in these back alleys and our community members and the citizens of Winnipeg who have to live like this,” she said. 

Volunteers with the West Broadway Bear Clan Patrol found garbage strewn throughout a back lane between Ellice Avenue and Spence Street. (Submitted by Lawrence ‘Spatch’ Mulhall)

Klassen doesn’t know why so much garbage is accumulating in the area, but says she thinks it reflects how much people are struggling with addiction. 

Data from Manitoba’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showed that 372 people lost their lives to overdoses in the province between January and December 2020 — an 87 per cent increase from 2019. 

The majority of drug-related deaths — 254 — were linked to opioids, including fentanyl.

Klassen says because of COVID-19, it’s been a challenge for organizations like hers to do the kind of outreach they’d normally do, but other issues, like a lack of housing and detox beds, are making the problem worse. 

“It’s heartbreaking to watch my community members have to live like that, and that our city doesn’t care,” she said. 

City aware of issue: spokesperson

She said she’d like to see the city and property owners to step up to address the garbage issue. It’s not just a cleanliness issue, but a safety one, said Klassen.

“Our government is so concerned about everybody being safe and wearing masks, but they’re not concerned about the garbage … in the street that has got biohazards in it that can cause disease.”

LISTEN | Angela Klassen tells Information Radio what she’s seeing in her neighbourhood:

Information Radio – MB8:06West Broadway’s become a dumping ground – again – for garbage and used needles.

West Broadway’s Bear Clan Patrol is finding more used needles and wading through more garbage than members have ever see before. Angela Klassen a passionate West Broadway resident and a member of the Bear Clan tells host Marcy Markusa about the dangers in what’s become a dumping ground and just how bad the situation is. 8:06

Ken Allen, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg, said the city is aware of the garbage issue between Young Street and Langside Street and is investigating what kind of cleanup measures will be required. 

He also said the city’s 311 service has seen a jump in the number of calls about discarded needles this month compared to the same time period last year: 134 service requests so far this April, compared to 42 service requests in April 2020. 

This issue of litter and discarded needles has gotten bad in all areas of the city, says Tom Ethans, executive director of Take Pride Winnipeg, which organizes cleanups and beautification projects throughout Winnipeg. 

“We’ve got groups going out all over the city and they are picking up a lot of garbage, they’re picking up a lot of needles as well,” he said.

“Of course, we’re picking up a lot of masks, which is also very bad this year.”

Beyond the city’s core, the area along Kenaston Boulevard near Bishop Grandin has become strewn with litter as well, he said. 

He encourages anyone who’s bothered by it to volunteer with Take Pride Winnipeg, or go out and pick up the litter in their neighbourhood. 

“If everybody in Winnipeg went out and picked up one piece of litter, it’s like 750,000 pieces of litter off the ground,” he said. 

“It doesn’t take much to make a difference. And we all have to work together to make our city look clean and beautiful.”

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